Thursday, June 10, 2010

WEIRD BUZZARDS BEHAVIOR

Sign or portent…or just two buzzards
seeking shelter from the rain?
We'd just returned from a long, exhausting day which began with mid-morning dental cleaning appointments miles from here, and ended after multiple subsequent stops, nine hours later. The sky was heavily overcast, dimmed to a premature twilight, plus it was raining—not hard, but enough that you could get wet if you stood around more than a moment. Naturally, there were groceries and other items to carry in—quite a few, actually.
I opened the back door and let Moon the dog out, then stepped inside to deposit sunglasses, sodas we'd been sipping since our last stop, and a bag of prescriptions we'd picked up at the pharmacy. Myladylove and Moon went around to the rear of the Jeep and began grabbing packages. I headed back out as they came in, retrieved my own armload of stuff, hurried back in—again passing Myladylove at the door while trying to step around Moon who'd decided to sit in the precise middle of the small rear deck—in the dry, of course—and observe all these semi-desperate to-and-fro relays.
A moment later, as I rushed back out, Myladylove and I almost collided in the doorway. "You're never going to believe this," she said. "Grab your camera!"
Luckily, the camera with an attached zoom was sitting on my desk, a dozen feet from the door. Whatever it was that had her cranked—sasquatch, naked kayakers, a UFO on the rooftop—I was now armed and ready to take its picture. I darted back outside.
Myladylove was standing in the drive holding Moon. The rain was coming down harder now and both of them were quickly getting wet. Moon had picked up on the sudden level of excitement. In addition, she is—to wildly understate the actuality—definitely not a water dog, rather one who abhors getting wet. So the combination of excitement and the rain had her bucking like a bronco—all sixty-plus pounds worth. Regardless, Myladylove, whose grit and pugnaciousness is no match for even an excited terrier, had clamped down on her collar and was hanging on regardless of a potentially dislocated shoulder. She pointed with her free arm. "Over there—on the fence."
I looked, and in the dimness, and saw what first appeared to be two large black blobs sitting on the wood fence that runs along the side yard. Looking closer at the blobs, I realized they were turkey vultures. "Buzzards!" I exclaimed, and began shooting photos.
What makes this so remarkable is not that the birds were vultures. There's a roost directly across the river channel from the cottage; we see buzzards every day. And it wasn't even unusual to see a turkey vulture in the yard—they often sit in one of the trees overlooking the river.
The really weird aspect was that they were sitting no more than 25 feet away, looking at us, sort of idly watching…and didn't seem in the least concerned or on the verge of becoming spooked. Normally, our resident vultures retain a decorous distance between us and them—and 25 feet is at least four times closer than any previous encounter. Moreover, we had not come upon them—they'd sailed in and settled on the fence in full view of Myladylove and a bouncing dog…and continued to sit as I took my shots.
Weird behavior…even for buzzards!
[Re. the photo: As I mentioned, because of the overcast, the light level was very low, almost twilight. The fence where the big birds were sitting is located under a huge, centuries-old sycamore—and even on the brightest days is always in deep shadow. My neighbor's lot, beyond the fence, is open, with willows on the background. I couldn't use a flash without risking spooking the vultures, which I didn't want to do. I was also too dumb to really boost up the ISO. With the photo-editing software I have, I can't crank up the light on the birds without also cranking up the light throughout the image—so what you see is the open area of the neighbor's yard looking unnaturally bright, just to give a bit of detail to the birds in the deep, dark shadows atop the fence. It was really much, much darker out. The rain is really coming down, too, which is also not apparent in the picture. Not much of a photo, frankly, but the best of the lot. Guess I was more excited about seeing my beloved buzzards at close range than I thought.]
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22 comments:

Bonnie said...

The brightness of the background really silhouettes the vultures. At a first quick glance I thought they were perched in front of a roaring waterfall.

Isn't it wonderful that simple things like a visit from a couple of birds can evoke such excitement and delight? If we only but attend to our surroundings, awe is never far away.

Hope your guests return again soon!

The Weaver of Grass said...

You don't think they were eyeing you up as a potential meal, do you?
Or maybe watching what you might leave in the boot of the car that they could pinch?

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ-

Quite a day - and quite a 'find' by your 'lady-love'. I so enjoy the ease and humor you apply to your world and days endeavors -

great pictures and explanation of how and why it is such. Fascinating. Just like you....

Love Gail
peace and hope

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bonnie…

If I'd have left it untouched, the fence and vultures would have looked like silhouettes cut out from black paper…not a bit of detail in either. And you would have barely been able to distinguish one from the other; two black lumps on a black blob. As it is, it's an admittedly awful compromise—plus now the open area and willows beyond are way too light, making the illumination appear much, much brighter than it was. The "roaring waterfall" look is all the rain sluicing down in front of the willows, sort of smearing their forms. The buzzards were high and dry, though.

You're right—we become jaded because we lose our sense of wonder…wonder lost because we're so busy dithering over our selves and or lives that we fail to truly see all the astonishing and beautiful and fascinating things that surround us daily.

And yup…I hope my vultures return again soon for another close encounter.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

I have no idea what prompted those vultures to drop by at such close quarters. I will say that I've noticed they are often quite curious birds re. what's going on, and will sometimes fly over to this side of the river and park in a nearby tree (100 feet or more away and 100 feet up, however) to, I'm convinced, simply get a better look.

This pair might have been looking for a handout, or they my have take a glance at us and decided we were looking pretty tired and might just croak any minute. (I won't point out they appeared when only Myladylove was outside…even though this could be significant.)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

I have my dark, depressive side, to be sure—and can be as moody as they come if I allow myself that leeway. But I've always dealt with almost everything from a stance of optimism and humor, seeing the glass half full—and being grateful this was so, instead of finding it half empty. Life is way too short to not have the maximum amount of fun along the way. You can have every object and accolade on earth and still not be happy; be rich, beautiful (or handsome) and talented. And you can be happy with nothing more than the clothes on your back and a song in your heart.

Personally, I'll take the joy-filled heart any day, the fun and laughter. And I'll count my blessings because I'm still here, my basic needs have been met, the earth is beautiful and filled with wonder…and I have a few dear friends and one or two people who actually love me.

God has been good to me—better than I deserve. Why shouldn't my heart be merry?

Bernie said...

What a full day you and your wife had, I had to smile as I visualized her holding Moon so that you could see what she did and then manage a picture.
Ahhh Grizz your life is good and I for one am so very happy for you.
I was glad to see this photo, first for me to see these buzzards, so thank you for sharing.
........:-) Hugs

Scott said...

Last weekend, my wife and I went to buy a new birdbath dish at a specialty concrete manufacturing plant about 15 miles from our house. The couple that owns the business "maintains" several cats, which they feed outdoors. While we were examining the birdbaths, two Turkey Vultures swooped down from utility poles near the buildings and proceeded to feast on the cat food. We were no more than 50 feet from the birds. When I expressed surprise to the proprietor, she remarked offhandedly, "Oh, yeah, they come here to eat at least once a week."

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

It was indeed a full day—filled to the brim with tasks and appointments, and more tiring than if we'd spent all those hours at manual labor.

But the turkey vultures were neat. And if my wife hadn't restrained her for the necessary minutes, Moon would have been all over the yard, barking and bounding, sending those buzzards flapping off, grievously offended by such unneighborly behavior.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Scott…

These vultures are never nearly that chummy or trusting. Of course, I don't keep out a supply of cat food for their dining pleasure. They will sometimes land on the rocks on my side of the big riffle just upstream from the cottage—but they won't tolerate anyone around, no matter how far away. I expect they feel vulnerable when on the ground.

Sometimes I go outside and see them sitting on a waterside limb across the river, 75-100 feet away, and they'll continue to sit there for a short while, through always keeping an eye on you. I watch them back at that range by turning my body and face at an angle, facing away, as if I were looking elsewhere while watching them out of the corner of my eye. (A good trick with lots of animals, as I'm sure you know.) But if I turn or stare directly at them, or try and take a photo, they're up and off.

My buzzards are wild, and act it—but there are plenty of places and examples where birds seem to act completely different. Kelly, at Red and the Peanut, just posted some lovely and amazing photos of a great blue heron in Florida that practically sat on the end of her telephoto lens; BGHs in Ohio nearly turn themselves inside-out in apoplexy if you get within 100 feet…although a couple of weeks ago, one waded downstream past the cottage, with three of us sitting there looking, and allowed all the picture-taking we wanted—not at the close range of Kelly's bird, but at the span of the channel, which is about 50-60 feet. And it hung around unperturbed for an hour or so.

A from TO said...

Be careful when you doze off outside you might get a closer look at those vultures than you wish.mmmmm a grizzled snack.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

A from TO…

Snack? I'll have you know I could make any buzzard a full course meal! ;-)

giggles said...

Hey Scribe? I think what you may have here are two Black Vultures, as opposed to turkey vultures. Note the black heads, which even in the dim light look black to me. TVs have the red head.... You can tell the difference easily when they are on wing. They are whiter on the "fingertips" only as opposed to all along the back side of the wing.... That may also explain their odd or at least different behavior than whta you have previously witnessed. Whaddya think?

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Nahhhh…you're being misled by my poor photo and the awful lighting. But I can see how you're thinking. However, they were just plain TVs—and some of the even worse shots, when I crank up the lighting until it's plumb washed out, actually shows their red ol' heads. Plus, eyes being better than underlit exposures, I could see them, see their heads. (Plus keep in mind that immature turkey vultures do have a dark head.) I've never seen a black vulture here along the river, though there are a few around and their numbers increase as you go southeast, toward the hill country.

But hey, you were looking AND thinking and that's the main thing. And it's good to hear from you, too…

Jayne said...

Coolio! I can't imagine them just sitting there and letting me snap their photos. Maybe they read your blog and knew you'd been wanting to see them again? ;c) Neat capture!

giggles said...

OK. Yeah, thanks....layin' low.... Hangin' out. Not doin' much. Reading, just not commenting....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jayne…

Maybe…though with a roost on the island across from the cottage, I see turkey vultures every day. Just not at such close range. Wish I'd have managed a better photo, though.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Nothing wrong with some R&R; just hadn't heard from you lately and wanted you to know you were missed.

Carolyn H said...

Griz: Are those black vultures?? Kind of look that way in your photo. They're kind of goofy in where you find them. If not they must be young turkey vultures without the pink head. They are even goofier.

Carolyn H.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

They're turkey vultures—one juvenile and one showing a bit of reddish around the head in some of my other shots. They're also wet turkey vultures. In bad light. Photographed badly. So immaturity may account for their weird behavior…or it may have been just run-of-the-mill wacky buzzard shenanigans. They all seem to do such things from time to time.

A fromTO said...

okay first it was spiders,then snakes and vultures can we please get some cute photos-like bunnies or something?

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

A from TO…

Alas! I am but a humble photographer, and I simply takes 'em as I sees 'em.